An evening of hauntology to launch a great new exploration of the unexplainable…
To Reading Library I stepped my way. I had received an invitation from Chris Lambert, host of last year's Z-Day and a Dead Files colleague. He was launching a new venture–a literary and musical examination of one of the North of England's strangest phenomena.
North of R.A.F. Fylingdales, on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors, lies a place known locally as the Black Meadow. It is a place that has been the nexus of folklore, songs and stories for a very, very long time. Strange things happen in the Black Meadow. There is a mist that will rise from the woods even on a clear and cloudless day. There are things in there, the stories say. A man made out of rag and bone. Dancers with horses heads and men's bodies. And a village that will appear and disappear without a trace.
The Black Meadow has devoured many souls over the centuries. The songs and stories that have developed in the local area warn against the place and even now, should the mist rise, people will not leave their houses until it has dissolved again. It is these disappearances that have sparked interest over the decades, with a Royal Commission in the 1930's under Lord Thomas Brightwater tasked with the investigation of the mysterious incidences. That inquiry was plagued with controversy, and Brightwater abandoned it, and his political ambitions under a cloud of opprobrium.
In the late 1960s Professor Roger Mullins of the University of York picked up where the Commission had left off. His initial exploration of the folklore around Fylingdales led him in strange directions, and his research took an increasingly esoteric turn. He disappeared in 1972, and he has never been found. The Black Meadow has a way of keeping its secrets to itself.
Or perhaps not. Mullins left behind a stack of research material that have formed the basis of this new project. Chris, along with musical collaborator Kevin Oyston, have put together a package that explores the folklore that has formed around the phenomena of the Black Meadow. Chris's book of tales, beautifully illustrated by Nigel Wilson, gathers many of the best known tales and poems in a neat little volume. Meanwhile Kevin has taken on the musical side of the legend, collating the songs and ballads that are regularly sung in the taverns of the area–songs that will reliably reduce a room to silence, and many of the listeners to tears.
The launch evening was a huge success. A packed room enjoyed a presentation of the legend and its history, along with readings of some of the poems, and a dramatic re-enactment of the tale of The Devil and The Yoked Man.
It seems, however, that the more you try to explore the phenomena of the Black Meadow, the less clear it becomes. You become mist-blind, and the truth slips through your fingers like fog.
If you'd like to find out more about the Black Meadow, Chris's book is available from Amazon. Kevin's music, which includes a remastered version of a 1978 Radio 4 documentary on the phenomena, is available through Bandcamp as download or, if you insist, CD (this does contain a 4-page booklet with new art and a preface from writer and hauntology fan Warren Ellis, so the physical form has that going for it).
The Brightwater Archive, which gives more information about the Black Meadow, is open to the public at http://brightwaterarchive.wordpress.com/. Go more deeply if you wish. But for God's sake, stay out of the mist.
(Illustrations courtesy of The Brightwater Archive, apart from the photo of Prof. R. Mullins, reprinted with permission of Prof. Philip Hall of the University of York.)